After three days of learning in the Zambian town of Kalomo, a group of health and education professionals, parents, caregivers and village representatives were eager to give special care to local children with developmental delays or disabilities.

In June, the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies sent Dr. Brian Reichow, associate professor of special education and early childhood studies, and Dr. Marylou Behnkke, emeritus professor of medicine to finalize cultural adaptations for a parenting skills training program in Kalomo and the surrounding villages, an area that lacks access to specialists.

Dr. Reichow giving a presentation in Zambia

Dr. Reichow gives presentation to community members in Zambia.

“We needed to work with our key stakeholders in Zambia to ensure the training was culturally relevant and met the needs of the families locally,” said Reichow. “After the workshops, we feel more confident the program will be sensitive to the Zambian context and culture.”

The trainings were adopted from the World Health Organization’s Parent Skills Training Programme for Caregivers of Children with Developmental Disorders, an ongoing initiative that Reichow has been working on since its inception in 2013. The program consists of nine group sessions and three home visits for the families. Content is delivered through modeling and guided practice during the group sessions, as well as targeted coaching of parent-child interactions during home visits.

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Reichow, Behnke, and Dr. Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center and David Lawrence Jr., Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies. The project team enlisted the assistance of a project manager in Zambia and a Core Local Adaptation Team that includes a physiotherapist, clinic administrator, medical advocate, retired nurse, and a representative from the district medical office.

Dr. Reichow and Dr. Marylou Behnke pose with Zambian community members

Dr. Reichow poses with Professor Emeritus, Dr. Marylou Behnke, along with Zambian community members after presentation.

The next step for Reichow, Behnke, and Snyder is to begin to work on the implementation phase of the project, when six to eight Kalomo caregivers are trained by local facilitators from the Core Local Adaptation Team.

“Our goal is to create a sustainable program in areas that don’t have access to specialist trainers,” said Reichow. “This work is at the core of the Anita Zucker Center’s mission: to help young children and their families, especially those with vulnerabilities — no matter where they live.”